It seems unlikely that a very 1980s house in Rustic Canyon could be transformed into a home that simultaneously evokes the understated, timeless Colonial buildings of centuries past and the thoroughly modern structures of the present. But the house, owned by film composer Harry Greyson-Williams and his wife, Erin, proves that such a transfiguration is entirely possible. The couple placed the project in the capable hands of architect Tim Barber and supervising project manager Kirk Snyder, as well as interior designers Joe Lucas and Parrish Chilcoat. “Where the house is Colonial, we used lap siding, board-and-batten wainscoting and a standing-seam metal roof, which all have the vernacular of a historical American farmhouse,” Barber says. “But on the interior, there’s a partial glass ceiling, steel-framed windows and both metal and wood beams. It’s a dynamic juxtaposition of elements that are interesting but not inconsistent.”
When Harry and Erin, who have five children, first discovered the house, its architectural style was somewhat irrelevant, given its proximity to a beloved park they frequented. However, “The layout didn’t make sense,” Erin says. “The master was on a different level than the other bedrooms. And Harry needed a music studio so he could do some work from home.” After living there for about five years, they turned to Barber and Snyder, masters at blending traditional and modern styles. “They specifically requested the look of a classic farmhouse,” Barber says. To achieve the simpliflied aesthetic, the architects took the structure down almost to the studs. “We maintained the L-shaped footprint and kept the steel framework, exposed wood beams and parts of the glass ceiling,” Snyder says. The existing glass, in combination with the steel-framed windows and the clerestories, floods the rooms with views and sunlight, linking the house to its California landscape. Other aspects, such as the preserved oak beams, the new board-and-batten wainscoting and lap siding, and the white-oak paneling of the foyer, pay tribute to a farmhouse aesthetic. The architectural team also reorganized the rooms, consolidating the main living spaces along one wing and placing the bedrooms, including the master bedroom, in the other, and gave Harry a recording studio.
Inspired by the architecture, Lucas and Chilcoat outfitted the interiors with fashionable yet timeless furnishings. “We chose a lot of traditional-style furniture and contemporary pieces too,” says Chilcoat, who took the lead on the project and now has a new firm, Cameron Design Group. “The mix creates tension. None of it looks predictable.” Perhaps the furthest thing from predictable is the wallpaper by Black Crow Studios that looks like a watercolor painting covering an entire wall in the dining room. “It has shades of blue and green,” Chilcoat says. “The ceiling is glass, so we chose colors found in nature. We didn’t want it to fight with what was going on outside.” Like the wallcovering, a massive Currey & Company chandelier with dozens of blue-green discs that resemble sea glass makes a big statement in the space. “The fixture and the wallpaper anchor the room, which has vaulted ceilings and is filled with light,” Lucas says. “Everything else is simple. There’s a custom reclaimed wood table and vintage chairs upholstered with faux leather.”
The designers continued the palette throughout the rest of the house. In the living room, four custom roll-arm armchairs upholstered with blue linen surround a custom octagonal ottoman covered with teal leather. “The tone of the linen is similar to the paint color of the built-in bookshelves,” Chilcoat says. “Harry has an amazing book collection, and I knew a lot of color would come from the bindings. Doing tone on tone was a subtle approach. If we’d done different colors, the eye would focus on that and not the beams, the sunlight and the texture of the architecture.”
The architectural team, with the help of builder and construction manager Levi Powell, created various play and entertaining spaces at the rear of the ascending site. “There’s a terrace on the ground level and a mid-level deck with a fire pit and a casual dining area,” Barber says. At the top are a new pool, a sundeck and a remodeled pool house. Of the labor-intensive process to install the pool, Powell says, “We excavated for the pool with a machine that carried small loads of earth down a steep path that was carved into the hillside. We drove it through the house, into the front yard, down a ramp at the entry, and to the street.” Landscape designer Patricia Benner revived the grounds in the front of the house and planted a Podocarpus hedge with star jasmine at its base to create privacy and a welcoming feeling. For the back gardens, says Benner, “On the slope below the beautiful native sycamore, I planted a variety of flowering plants and shrubs for enjoyment from both the lower and upper patios. Plantings included a mix of blues, lavenders, dark greens and grays from a combination of Ceanothus Carmel Creeper, lavender, salvias, rosemary and phlomis.”
The Gregson-Williamses always knew they had found the perfect lot—now their home is idyllic too. “When you walk into the house, you immediately see a huge window in the dining room and what’s right outside,” Lucas says. “You see the canyon and the sky, and it’s a very California moment. The furnishings and the colors we chose speak to that. They’re traditional in style, but they’re also young and fresh.”